Twice a year, in summer and at Christmas, I replenish my elderly father’s wardrobe with the essentials. Vests. Pyjamas. Jumpers. Shirts. Trousers. Socks. I don’t expect to get any thanks for it. He doesn’t know me anymore. His personal awareness diminished, the man I grew up fearing has shut down, cocooned in mysterious layers that cruelly consume his former self.
and victim of victim remains
I will place nametags onto every item of clothing. An important task as otherwise, it will all get lost in the wash of the nursing home’s laundry process. Even his socks will be labelled. This ritual, I’ll put off for days, even weeks. The new clothes wait, bagged and tagged in the corner as each time I find it harder to psych myself up to do it. To dress his former self.
in the stifle
Such is the experience of living with Alzheimer’s. Anger masking fear. Personality. Style. Essence. Autonomy. All slowly devoured. I am awash with sadness that he is there. A small, protected life. I know it is not the way this fiercely independent man would want to end his days. Vulnerable. Frail. Completely dependent on those who are paid to care for him.
in the grey deafening
In those early days, he tried to escape, and relentlessly paced the corridors. Lately, he sleeps, or stares into space. Transported to some deep labrynth of his mind, unmoored, and I wonder if he is ever heartsore, as I am. From the irony of our present. From the grief of our past.
and when they are gone
From the dark days of my fettered childhood. Pacing the grey edges of an industrial school. Where my father left me to fate. To the mercy of a religious organisation who rarely had any. Curtailed. Confused. Afraid. Abandoned to the gothic shadows that walk with me still.
and we can’t remember who they were, or what they did
Watching my father succumb to an existence that he will never be able to describe, is a dismal, morbid process. To see him wane. Thin skin taut on bone. But there is healing too. Epiphany. The passing of time. The rituals and the bearing witness enabling trauma and resentment to dissipate. A bittersweet void. Fertile for empathy and forgiveness to flourish.
dear heart, the tears go wandering too.
Yet sometimes, his eyes search mine, and I wonder. If he could, what would he tell me?
Caroline Farrell. © 2020